Monday, May 30, 2011

Tools of the Trade...Scrivener

I have been using Scrivener since November 2010 but it was not until a few days ago when a fellow member of my critique group asked me if I knew of a good writing application. I said, "As a matter of fact I do."

It all started when I submerged myself deep into the chaos of NaNoWriMo. Scrivener offers a free 30 day trial and I heard so many good things I decided I would give it a shot.

I cannot say enough good things about the customer service and technical support I received from them. I was over 20,000 words into my novel and I decided I should back up my words onto a flash drive. At the time I did not know how I did it but in the process I thought I lost all of my words. (well more like displaced, I accidentally changed the title so I was looking for the wrong thing) My heart stopped, panic set in. My masterpiece lost forever. (I went back and read it recently and trust me, it's no masterpiece. But I love it all the same)

I emailed Scrivener and of course tried to blame the program. "It ate my words," I cried.  Knowing these things are usually operator error I must thank Scrivener for being so kind to me. After they asked several questions of what I had done leading up to the lost words, in a very polite way and never making me feel stupid, they let me know there was no problem with the program. They first wanted to make sure there really was not a flaw in the program because they want to offer a quality product. After we ruled that out, they seemed just as concerned for my missing words. What they told me was Scrivener has an auto save and even though I may not be able to see my words, they were indeed saved on my computer, we just needed to find them.

After several hours and emails I told them I accepted my fate, my words were gone. They did not accept that answer and continued sending me options to try. When all hope was lost, they were my beacon of light in the dark, dismal tunnel of which I roamed.

I found those words later that night,  they were in front of me all along. I then had to tuck my tail between my legs and tell them that my village found its idiot, that would be me.

Scrivener offers a simple lay out for you to organize your novel that lets you move things with ease. You can open multiple pages at a time, see your character sketches, organize links, outline,  sync with Simplenote, compile for export and much more.  I suggest you go their website and watch the tutorials.

I use Scrivener on my Mac but there is a beta version for Windows as well.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Book Review...Graveminder

Graveminder by Melissa Marr

description from

Product Description
The New York Times bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series delivers her first novel for adults, a story about the living, the dead, and a curse that binds them.

Rebekkah Barrow never forgot the tender attention her grandmother, Maylene, bestowed upon the dead of Claysville, the town where Bek spent her adolescence. There wasn't a funeral that Maylene didn't attend, and at each Rebekkah watched as Maylene performed the same unusual ritual: three sips from a small silver flask followed by the words "Sleep well, and stay where I put you."

Now Maylene is dead and Bek must go back to the place--and the man--she left a decade ago. But what she soon discovers is that Maylene was murdered and that there was good reason for her odd traditions. It turns out that in placid Claysville, the worlds of the living and the dead are dangerously connected. Beneath the town lies a shadowy, lawless land ruled by the enigmatic Charles, aka Mr. D--a place from which the dead will return if their graves are not properly minded. Only the Graveminder, a Barrow woman, and the current Undertaker, Byron, can set things to right once the dead begin to walk.

I am a fairly new fan of Melissa Marr and now that I read this book I am sure to be a long time one. My first experience with her books was reading "Wicked Lovely", a young adult, modern day story about faeries. This is Melissa's first adult novel and I'm pretty sure it is only the second adult novel I have read in over a year. (You'd think it would be more considering, well...I am an adult. Legally anyway.Many years past legal I should say) 
*waving hands in air and shaking head* Back to things at hand.

Rebekkah Barrow is a likable character faced with many obstacle's; the death of family members, turmoil with surviving family members, the graveminder legacy, the walking dead and Byron. Oh how I like Byron let me count the ways. 

The story takes place in a small tranquil town and... some place else really cool. (I want to tell you but I don't want to spoil it, so trust me, it's cool) Melissa gives us a believable setting and the story moves at a steady, entertaining pace. 

There are a few swear words and a mild bedroom scene so if you have a young teenager that is an established fan from previous published young adult books you may want to read it first. Then you can decide for yourself if your youngster is mature enough for it. For me it was not offensive and we all know how PG I am.

Over all, this is a good book. The eerie setting really appealed to me, until now I never realized how much I like cemeteries. Is that weird? Don't answer that. Despite the darker tone this is a great summer read. Pick up your copy and let me know what you think. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Bit of Writing Advice by Yours Truly

As a novice writer, every day I set upon a quest to learn something new about the craft. I search the web, book stores, take classes and discuss technique's with my critique group. I love to post articles that I find or hints from books I read and pass information along that I find useful.

But this time I am posting information not from an expert or published writer, but something I realized that might help you. Drum roll please.................

The create tension/conflict in your story, figure out what would make your character the happiest, then give them the opposite.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book Review...City of Fallen Angels

By Cassandra Clare    Book Four in the Mortal Instruments series

Flap copy description

The Mortal War is over, and sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She's training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And—most importantly of all—she can finally call Jace her boyfriend.
But nothing comes without a price.

Someone is murdering Shadowhunters, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second, bloody war. Clary's best friend, Simon, can't help her. His mother just found out that he's a vampire and now he's homeless. Everywhere he turns, someone wants him on their side—along with the power of the curse that's wrecking his life. And they're willing to do anything to get what they want. Not to mention that he's dating two beautiful, dangerous girls—neither of whom knows about the other one.
When Jace begins to pull away from her without explaining why, Clary is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: she herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. The stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.

Cassandra Clare has come a long way since The City of Bones. She has grown as a writer and her work just keeps getting better and better.

I am conflicted when it comes to recommending this book though. It is very good and the story is right up my alley. It gives us vampires, werewolves, fairies, angels, love and war. But the journey to get to it is what I hesitate to recommend. City of Bones, the first book in the series upset me more than any book ever has and I swore I would never read her books again. Soon after I realized the writing must be good to draw that much emotion from me, so I soldiered on. That leads us to this book, it's witty, exciting and worth the ride.

Cassandra Claire brings us  many character's that are easy to care about. Jace, Clary, and lets not forget about Magnus. The pacing in this book keeps the story moving along and the ending.....lets just say Cassandra loves her cliff hangers and loves to torture her characters. Just like a writer should.

Now I can also tell you this, she has another series called The Infernal Devices. It  is more like a companion series but also stands alone where you do not have to read The Mortal Instruments to follow. Clockwork Angel is by far her best work, so if you don't want to suffer the aguish of The Mortal Instruments start there. It takes place in 1800's England.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Menacing and the Magical


In French folklore, Basilic was a dragon that haunted the area round the city of Vienne, taking cattle and people. It had a stare that petrified all it looked upon.

This state of affairs continued until the brave knight Fretard overcame it, confining it to a well. However, Basilic was said to emerge every 10 years and could only be overcome if someone saw it before it could gaze upon the onlooker.

From the Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How does your setting make you feel?

Today's helpful hint comes from the book Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass.

How does your setting make people feel? That is the key, not how a place looks but its psychological effect on the characters in your novel.

Kriston's to do list:

-write convincing setting.....check
-provide details, cannot be vague......check
-keep it short so we don't slow down pace......check
-draw reader into the setting by invoking a feeling and sense of place.......What?

As a novice this is something I never thought of, not even once. But now that it has been brought to my attention I realize all of my favorite novels have done this. I think back to the warm fuzzies I get every time I think about visiting Hogwarts. Of course we love Harry but it's the magic of the setting that helps complete the picture.

On the not so pleasant side, some times things just need to creep our characters out or make them (and us) uncomfortable. I think of "The Hunger Games". Not only are the characters thrust into a dire situation, they are also dumped off in the middle of a very uninviting setting. Extreme temperatures, lack of food and water, all of which help give  a sense of despair.

One of the ways I decided to try to accomplish this is to treat the setting like a character itself. Not with story arc and growth but with details and description to give it a "personality".  Or maybe have them react to a certain element in their surroundings.

So....come up with original and exciting plot, weave in detail and subplots, create characters we care about and cause some sort of psychological effect on said characters to watch them grow while keeping up a steady pace to ensure the most entertaining story possible......*stops to remind self to take deep breath and count to ten* Some times I wonder why we do this to ourselves.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Book review, The Red Pyramid

By Rick Riordan

The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles Book 1)

Synopsis from Barnes & Noble

Since their mother's death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.
One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.
Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them —Set— has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe - a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs. 

This book was a delight to read. We follow Sadie and Carter, switching between the the two main characters point of view. As a writer it was very interesting to see how a characters voice needs to be as unique as the individual themselves and Rick did a great job in his delivery. He has a just the right amount of description and narrative to keep the story moving along.

Now even though the story kept a good pace I feel it could have been about 100 pages shorter. Only because they embarked on several different adventures I started losing track of everything they did.

Over all I recommend this book to readers strictly for the entertainment value. The whit and banter between the characters made me laugh and at the same time the love between siblings is ever present.

For writers I say read this book and study the pacing and descriptions. The descriptions are generally short but gave me clear picture in my head through out the entire story.

The Throne of Fire, the second installment in the best selling series released May 3rd. Look for it in book stores near you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Dialogue Dilemma

Here is another tip I learned From Gloria Kempton's book Dialogue

If you open a scene with dialogue, integrate some setting details as quickly as you can so the reader can begin to picture the characters and the atmosphere in which the dialogue takes place. This is one way to make the scene three-dimensional so your characters aren't talking to each other in a vacuum.

This book has once again proved it's value to me. I consult my book whenever a scene full of dialogue feels like it needs a jump start.

Blog Design by Imagination Designs all images from the Artist's Faeries kit by Lorie Davison